More on Fees and Property Taxes–Taxes or Fees Will Rise For Sure

Anyone who imagines that property tax rates and revenues will not have to be increased in the city of Coral Gables this year and in the coming budget cycles are dreaming.

There is no one in this crowd of candidates who will be able to stop the pressure to increase tax rates and revenues as property values continue to decline in the face of huge budget liabilities.

Now you are voting on firm increases in taxes( a la Slesnick) or more moderate increases.  Mr. Kerdyk will be reelected and he votes for taxes.  Ms. Anderson plus (say) Cason or Korge plus Rosenblatt or Sanabria will be on the commission.  Well meaning people they are, but they know how to add up revenues and expenses and some are big spenders.

They all mostly want the Mircle Mile/Giralda project so that means more spending.  It takes years to reorganize the Building and Zoning services.  We should charge for the trolley, but Mr. Kerdyk and friends of Miracle Mile will not stand for that.  Be sure that the Biltmore liabilities will not be fixed that easily and taxpayers will continue to subsidize that albatros.  Even with favorable negotiations with police and firefighters (who favor Rosenblatt and Sanabria, maybe others), the impact on pension liabilities is years away.  If Miami-Dade holds the line or reduces property taxes that is another opening for the city of Coral Gables to increase property taxes.

That is why I favor increasing fees across the board with a user-pays approach for fire services, trash, and permits and others, rather than increasing unfair property taxes again and again.

In summary, I hope I am wrong, but the financial problems of the city will take several years to fix, even with a good economy and rising real estate market.

Coral Gables’ Fees Vs Property Taxes: Which Is Fair? Sanabria Is Wrong

Actually, fees are much fairer than property taxes in the State of Florida.  Through fees everyone pays the same for the same service (the poorest taxpayers might be excluded if you like), whereas, property taxes are paid more by newcomers than property owners who are long-time residents with homestead protection.

Sanabria’s proposal to cut fees is wrong because, again, it protects long-term property owners versus newcomers–a highly unfair system.  Fees are great because the user pays.  I say, give use more fees based on the real cost of the services.  For example, trash collection is highly subsidized in Coral Gables through (unfair) property taxes.  If fire services were charged through fees, then taxpayers would be screaming about the pensions and salaries of firefighters.  I wonder, is that why Sanabria is against fees?

(And I will not get into why we need an income tax in Florida along with an equalized property tax system, like many modern state governments.)

Krugman on Ryan’s Fantasy Budget. What About Coral Gables?

I wonder sometimes if this is not the model for the budget for Coral Gables. But no, the city keeps increasing taxes in the face of falling revenues or rising revenues.

It is timidity of tax cutting in Coral Gables that keeps taxes increasing and terrible past commitments of the city in pensions and salaries, as well as having way too many employees.

Actually, what is not good for the country (keep lowering taxes and spending) is just fine for a small bloated municipality.  At the federal level we know where the money is going (health, the military, social security, debt payments, and other small government programs).

Where does the money really go in Coral Gables–it goes for salaries and benefits–for which there have been no good studies of their efficient use.

Ryan is proposing huge (and largely unspecified) spending cuts; but he’s also proposing very large tax cuts, mainly, of course, for those with high incomes. And as you can see, a large part — roughly half — of the spending cuts are going, not to deficit reduction, but to finance those tax cuts.

Actually, it’s even worse, since the revenue figure in the Ryan plan is simply assumed, and is clearly too high given what he’s actually proposing on taxes; so either the fall in revenue will be even larger than shown here, or there will be unspecified tax hikes on the middle class.

via Where the Spending Cuts Go – NYTimes.com.

Coral Gables’ High Tech Parking Means High Tech Fees and Revenues

The pay and display system usually dramatically increases parking revenues for the city (you are right, you pay more).  These systems generally require a much large minimum.

For example, South Miami’s system makes you pay $1.50 minimum, not 25 cents or 50 cents, for a brief stop.  Of course, the next guy pays $1.50 again.  These systems sometimes double parking revenues for cities.

Forget about the exciting technology, you will end up paying more parking fees.

The city will replace some 800 of the quaint, old-fashioned parking meters on Biltmore Way, Alhambra Circle, Ponce de Leon Boulevard and downtown parking lots with 80 solar-powered pay-and-display stations.

via Gables parking going high tech – Coral Gables – MiamiHerald.com.

Coral Gables: Haven’t Met a Candidate Who Didn’t Hate Taxes; Haven’t Met a Commissioner Who Didn’t Like Taxes

So far I haven’t met a politician that is in favor of more taxes (except Mayor Slesnick).

All of the current candidates for office have come out against more property taxes.  Of course, the current commission has been approving more taxes all along during this recession so we can’t be sure what they will do on the day of truth.

There are many prevailing pretexts:

  • It is the city manager’s fault;
  • We are holding to the roll-back millage rate (the roll-back rate keeps the total taxes the same as the previous year; so careful, if property values fall this means you pay more taxes);
  • Our taxes are just a small percentage (give or take 26% )of your  total property taxes in Miami-Dade County.  This is real deal!
  • You are paying a lower millage rate this year (but you may still pay more property taxes if your property value went up, unlikely for now, but happended during the real estate boom); and
  • We dare not cut police and fire services (the ultimate trump card);
  • Since the city manager couldn’t cut pensions we will have to charge more taxes.
  • We have cut the staff as much as we can without reducing the “quality of life;” and
  • We don’t have reserves.

Therefore, careful with the property tax gambit.

It takes real courage to fight against taxes and really cut the budget.

For Whom I Would NOT Vote In The Coral Gables Election

Following a process of elimination, I would not vote for the following:

I would not vote for Mr. Slesnick.  He has had 10 years in government and has led to city to its present state.  We lived with a corrupt and unethical city manager, we had taxes increased even in bad times, we saw the virtual collapse of the Country Club and, of course, we have the still secret audit of the Biltmore lease, and unrestrained support for city unions and pensions.  Add to this a poorly run IT Department and EDEN software, a weak Finance Department and a widely criticized Building and Zoning Department.  You have  here a good number of reasons to end the Slesnick Era.

I would not vote for Mr. Rosenblatt.  His program is to continue more of the same with lots of sponding on rehabilitating Miracle Mile (where he has a business), settle the Biltmore lease and keeping taxes low.  I am glad to know that taxes are low and, presumably, potentially could be raised just a little more in the future.

I would not vote for Mr. Sanabria.  He is supported by the Fraternity of Police who are completely and virgorously defending the benefits of good salaries and even better pensions that they have acquired over the years with the acquiescence of the mayor and city commission.   I don’t believe that Mr. Sanabria can be counted on to defend the voters against more taxes and fees.

We need three strong votes against more taxes for the future–we will not get them from Commissioners Anderson, Kerdyk and candidate Sanabria, so electing Mr. Sanabria would be budgetary lethal for the taxpayers of Coral Gables.

I might not vote for Mr. Kedyk.  I don’t see that he has contributed any heroic measures to the city (I know that many don’t agree with that view), and he has clearly voted for taxes, but not as many taxes as Mr. Slesnick might desire, nor more than Mr. Cabrera would have wanted.  The facts are that he has consistently voted for taxes.  He never raised a voice against the former city manager, had no problem to approve the UM Grid and he has been relatively quiet about the Biltmore, the Country Club and similar issues.  He is not a reformer and we need real reforms in the organization and financial management of the city of Coral Gables.  Almost certainly he will be elected so one should be careful about the other candidates that you vote for, if you want real reform and to reduce your taxes.

I might not vote for Mr. Quesada.  He appears to be a nice enough fellow, but he is a totally unknown quantity in the city.  He seems like the continuation of the Slesnick-Kerdick-Withers coalition and  the business-led support for the unbridled commercial growth of the city, which sucks in police, fire protection and other resources away from the residents and taxpayers who are having a hard time paying their taxes and fees.

How Unusual!? All Candidates Are Against Taxes, Except for Mayor Slesnick and Commissioner Kerdyk

All candidates, except for Mayor Slesnick who has consistently pushed for higher taxes, have come out against more taxes.  And thanks to Commissioner Kerdyk, who voted to approve recent tax increases in the worst of times.  I guess Commission Kerdyk would like to be against taxes and vote for taxes at the same time.

(By the way, I called that last two tax increases the Kerdyk Taxes, because he made up the majority and was the swing vote to approve the tax increases.)

Candidate Sanabria states to be against taxes, but since he is supported by the police union, the FOP, his position is not to be believed.  Candidate Quesada is ambiguous about taxes in his public declaration.